Entry Date:
July 23, 2015

Simulation-Based Optimization of Village Water Supply Systems and Sustainability Assessment of Water Supply Programs in India

Principal Investigator James Wescoat

India has improved its water supply services considerably, now reaching 97% of urban areas and 90% of rural communities (though these data are questioned). However, these programs are not always successful, as they fail to adapt to site-specific conditions and may not offer sustainable service for users. According to the World Bank, the programs implemented in India continue to face challenges with operation, maintenance, and water quality, reporting a 30-40% change in status from “covered” back to “partially covered” or “not covered.” This phenomenon is known as “slip back” or “slippage” projects. (World Bank, 2011)

Our two-fold project focus is on the rural water supply system in India, specifically the state of Gujarat, which is perceived as the most successful in providing rural water supply services. At the state level, we will address the challenge of sustainability of programs in rural India by evaluating the performance of projects in Gujarat, with our assessment providing quantitative metrics of sustainability and identifying variables that drive success or failure of the programs. This assessment will be designed based on the state of Gujarat with scalability for use in other states of India, and will look at state, district, and village level. The assessment will be developed for implementing and funding organizations.

At the village level, even if the water distribution network exists, communities still struggle to find adequate amount of drinking water supplies to meet their needs. More often than not, these villages get drinking water for only 30-45 minutes once every 2-3 days. The situation worsens in dry season when conventional sources of water (local wells) go dry. Villagers have to rely either on rainfall or expensive water tankers. This research seeks to simulate the complex water systems at village level and optimize it for more reliable supply. The optimization tool will be designed for a village level analysis, targeting the community and the implementing organizations. The system components will include multiple sources of water commonly found in Indian villages, such as open dug wells, rainwater, supply from a local dam and supply by local municipality, and the water distribution network taking water from various sources to local storage and finally to individual households. The simulation model will then be run for different scenarios of supply frequency, quantity, and alternate sources to recommend the most economically reliable supply